Sarah Benton has over 10 years experience marketing children's books to parents, young readers and teens. For seven years she worked at major publishers Orion, Pan Macmillan and HarperCollins - working on familiar authors and brands such as The Princess Diaries, The Gruffalo, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Michael Morpurgo, Darren Shan and David Walliams – before leaving to help start up a new Bonnier-owned children's publisher Hot Key Books.
Now head of marketing for print & digital at Hot Key Books, and their sister non-fiction company Red Lemon Press, she's been at the fulcrum of driving the company forward as a digitally savvy, consumer focussed publisher, connecting authors with readers and creating innovative enhanced, interactive fiction and story experiences online.
The case study
The £2K Story Adventure: Why Big Budgets Aren’t Everything
At Hot Key Books, one of the biggest focuses is involving people in the publishing process, and a key project for them this year was called The Story Adventure. This involved children from around the UK helping an author write a story, week by week by answering questions and putting forward their suggestions to be taken forward. Children that had their ideas incorporated into the story got a credit in the book, a special online badge (and community kudos!). Through this initiative, Hot Key Books built a large community of kids, parents and teachers online during Spring/Summer term and had huge amounts of interaction (over 9,000 comments) with this audience. This was all built on a tiny budget of only £2k!
In the spotlight
What kids trend is dominating your job at the moment?
I've been focussing on teens/young adults, and they are becoming more 'creators' and want to be given a voice to be heard. For us, in the book industry there is an influx of teenage content creators online, book bloggers, BookTubers (YouTube Book reviewers) and Goodreads members all making their voices heard. As a brand it is important that we try to listen to them and engage them in what we're doing.
If you had three wishes for your brand, what would they be?
1. To be a brand that people recommend and have affinity for – we regularly have people saying they've enjoyed all the books we've published, and we want our Hot Key brand to display the best quality of fiction out there and to be known for that
2. To be a helpful brand, provide a great service – helping and advising people on what to read next, giving our community a voice, helping people be published and help to connect our authors with readers
3. Keep putting innovation at the heart – while owned by Bonnier (Swedish Media Group) we are a start-up within the group, formed in 2011 so placed digital innovation at the heart of what we do, and continue to take risks and learn from them.
If you had one recommendation for those looking to maximize the level of engagement with their children and parents, what would it be?
Make sure the content and rewards are worthwhile for individuals. People have such limited time these days that you need to make it clear up front what's in it for them to be involved and engaged with your brand
What do you hope to gain from gathering with other marketing leaders at Appeal to Kids & Sell to Parents?
Ideas and inspiration to take back to Hot Key!
What session, other than your own, are you most looking forward to at Appeal to Kids & Sell to Parents?
The children's panel 'Straight Up' The Truth Behind what kids want from brands
Sarah will be speaking the ‘Quick Fire Case Study’ session, alongside Emilie Stephenson, Brand Manager at innocent and Jon Fish, SEA LIFE Head of Global Marketing, Merlin Entertainments
4 December 2013, London, www.marketingtokidsconference.com